When I first met Daliah Spiegel three years ago, she was dressed like a silver angel and Ivan the Facehunter was sleeping on her couch (if you look at his book, she's practically on every other page). Soon after that she asked me to put my penis into the trunk of her elephant mask (not a metaphor), which I refused. Last year she charmed the pants off of Cobra Snake, and now she's taken a picture of something Eileen Myles thinks "looks like a brain" for this year’s Photo Issue.
Vice: Hey Daliah, you were studying for a big test when you took the photo for this year’s Photo Issue. Did you pass?
Daliah Spiegel: Yes, but I got a "C." When I started studying medicine three years ago, I got an "A" on a test and it continuously got worse until I ended up where I am now: a hateful "C." I only have one exam left, then I’m done.
Stop complaining. A "C" is great. I mean, after the test you were afraid you didn’t pass at all.
True, I was worried, but that’s what I do every time. And once I’ve passed, then I start complaining about the grade and get angry about not doing better.
You could say that in general, studying medicine has had quite a positive effect on your career as a photographer. You started taking pictures only a few years ago, right?
Yeah, it’s actually a funny story. When you study medicine in Austria, you have to take a big exam every year in July, right before the summer holidays begin. In my first year I took it really seriously, I locked myself away and was studying day and night. But after two months of isolation I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to go out. It had been a while, so I made a serious effort; slapped on a bit of black eye shadow, put on a white dress… you get the picture. But then something went wrong, I don’t remember exactly why, but my best friend Jeanne who was supposed to be picking me up was a bit late. For some unknown reason I completely lost it and started balling my eyes out. Black makeup was running all over my face and I looked so incredibly pathetic that I decided to switch my camera on and take a picture.
I wonder if now that this year's exam is over and you’re not sitting in your room studying anymore, if the chewing gum mountain is gone?
Nope. The gum is all still there. As a matter of fact the mountain is growing daily. There is even a little white baby brother mountain of white gum next to the colorful one. All the chewing gum is from a vending machine my Mum got me as a present for my last birthday. After a few seconds they get all gross and tasteless and disgusting which is actually kinda good, because I don’t get the feeling I’m wasting stuff.
The other picture you sent was also taken in your room, right?
Yes, it’s a "kitsch cluster" in my bedroom. I had loads of different ideas for still life, but as you know, there wasn’t enough time because I had to study. But I’ll get those pictures sometime soon and show them to you. Then you can tell me what you think.
For me it was great not having to tell you what to do. You just sent two pictures that perfectly fit our definition of still life. Does that have anything to do with your general penchant for taking pictures of inanimate objects as well as ahem--pictures of yourself? You’re pretty into animals too though, right?
I think the animals came after I decided that doing mere self-portraits is quite boring. So I wanted to get all kinds of stuff into these pictures, animal masks, dead animals, you know, anything to make the whole "self expression" thing a bit more exciting. Anyway, I’m not that into it any more, but I still think animals are cool.
You used to be into wigs too, which is the reason why I was sure you would send us a still life with at least one of your many wigs in it. But it looks like those times are over?
Dressing up has always been a very important part of my pictures. Like Cindy Sherman, using different identities, playing roles, finding out how far you can go, who you can be and stuff. But even that changed. Right now I don’t feel like wearing a wig. Maybe I should bring that back again sometime soon.
The Day Terry Didn't Answer. Though the Lollipop Was Delicious
But when you sent some pictures of yourself to Terry Richardson you were still wearing wigs, right?
Yeah, that’s true. I sent him the pictures in order to get him to come to Austria to take pictures of me. But he didn’t want to. I never heard anything back. Mean. Ultra mean. But maybe me having a different hair color in every picture confused him.